Monday, May 28, 2012


We've been trapping groundhogs.  (Or woodchucks, depending on where you live.)  They have long been a menace, digging and climbing their way into my vegetable garden despite all attempts to keep them out (they've been baffled by the chicken wire underground, but not by the 6-foot deer fence).  I did try years ago to remove them by putting a humane trap in or near the garden, but they were too smart, or not distracted enough.

This spring our neighbors finally got fed up by the groundhogs' attempt to establish extensive condos under their garage and shed, and hired a professional, who trapped and relocated two enormous groundhogs for a sizable fee.  After that they placed a borrowed trap near the hole that's down back along the property line.  The photo shows the first one caught that way (why I never thought of putting the trap by the hole instead of by the food before I don't know, but it obviously works much better) and a young one found its way in there too.  We are in charge of relocation, so we drove them off sequentially to a place on the edge of the woods and watched them scamper off.  This one ate carrots loudly all the way there.

Four down, but we have seen more since, so after several fruitless days by the hole, which is apparently vacant now, the trap's been moved near the neighbors' vegetable garden for the time being (I hope to find another hole).

This morning I went outside, heard piteous meowing, looked around, and realized that our cat was caught in the trap.  He is not the world's brainiest cat, but I didn't think he liked carrots and apples... and sure enough, when I went to release him I saw a small and terrified rabbit at the other end of the trap.  I shook it out (it didn't want to leave) and it slowly hopped away seeming unhurt - I suspect Gobi didn't have enough "elbow" room to grab it, and he was pretty upset by his ordeal too.  He's fine now, after a lot of washing.

Wish I'd snapped a photo, but my instincts said get kitty out first.  Sympathetic instincts do not make entertaining blogging, alas.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May showers, May flowers

Once again getting in a day early for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and will link tomorrow when it's live over at May Dreams Gardens.  May has not been a particularly dreamy month here; it's been a rainy month that we desperately needed and still are capable of cursing when we never get a chance to mow the lawn.  (However -- I was in Houston over the weekend for absolute floods of rain that did not in the end prevent the Rice graduation from happening outdoors as planned, although the chairs were practically floating in the quad.  So I am appreciating the gentle drizzle here much more.)

Anyway, the moisture and the continued mild temperatures have been great for flowers, and many have hung on much longer than usual.  I took some photos last week, but the same ones are still blooming.  The peony above I bought on sale without a name (feel free to tell me what it is).  It has done better than the other two planted near it.  I plan to create a new bed near the mock orange

(which is still blooming by the way; going on a month now)

to plant peonies under hopefully more suitable conditions.

This is the Sunny Knockout, which is about my speed as roses go.  New yellow blooms fade to cream as they age.

I also have two Bonica shrub roses, which are bigger and more spectacular every year.  They are right at the front so everyone sees them and thinks I can grow roses.

Also spectacular in the front: a purple ninebark four feet tall and weeping gracefully, that's just been in the ground two and a half years since I bought it for $10 at Lowe's.  I love bargain plants that work out (they make up for the expensive ones that die and leave aching holes in the wallet).

Here's one of the ninebark flowers close up.
Baptisia australis growing shrublike and gorgeous, also right on the street where everyone can see it.  (There are a good many weeds in the streetside beds, so I hope it's distracting.)

Maple-leaf viburnum: a modest and cheerful late-spring presence.

Aquilegia canadensis, one of the few I have left in a too-shady spot.

Some of my Siberian kale, gone to flower.  The flower buds are very tasty - true of all the brassicas, not just broccoli.

That's by no means all that's blooming, but that's all the decent photos.  Here's hoping your gardens are in full flower, with cloudy skies for photography but rain only at night.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Resurrections (and naked ladies)

The picture is irrelevant to the rest of this, but just to say, hey, we still had daffodils blooming at the end of April.  Which might not seem extraordinary, but the earliest ones bloomed in February, so that is a long time.  I have enjoyed getting to know my late-season daffs, who usually drop in for tea and expire before I get the scones out of the oven.

I have no pictures for the rest of this, but it's celebratory.  Cheers and hurrah!  Nothing like seeing growth on plants you thought were dead, or plants that had no right to be living.  So here's what I'm celebrating:

My fig survived being chewed on by deer and rabbits.  It is not what it was last year, when it clearly had a good life ahead of it, but if it grows at the same rate this year, it will equal its last-year-self in size, and I will fence it in September before the deer start breaking rules and the rabbits get sneaky.

My pomegranate is alive!  So far it has about five leaves, but I hope they will keep popping out.  I was quite sure it had not survived its first winter planted outside, despite being wrapped around by fencing and row cover and heavily mulched, and despite this being the mildest winter ever, but a few days ago I saw the first leaf... and then remembered that in previous years when I took it inside in its pot each winter, it dropped all the leaves and did not start leafing out again until May.  So it's right on schedule (I just expect everything to be early this year).

I also have poppies that I thought were dead coming back to life on the maple tree knoll, and most of what I planted on the back slope is returning.  And all my new little trees are fine, though the holly I transplanted from out front lost its top half and will be shrubby rather than tree-y.

I have the strong possibility of a new Carolina allspice (I have one already, about fifteen years old, but I planted it prematurely as part of the native-understory-shrubs row that is only now coming into being, and it has survived having Christmas trees dumped on it and branches falling on it and general neglect, but it is not one of those allspices that smells like it should, due to nature not nurture, so I don't feel guilty.  About that).  The new one is thanks to a fellow MG who needed suckers dug out - I came home with two, and the first one I planted does not look too good, but the one still in the pot looks fine.

And back in late "winter" when I hurriedly pruned the Limelight hydrangeas in anticipation of Verizon needing access to the side of the house, and threw the clippings on the ground where they sat for a month before I got around to picking them up, I really didn't think I'd get four new hydrangeas out of it, but when I cleaned up I found that four of the trimmings had grown leaves (they were lying on damp ground, but not in any way treated like a cutting one would wish to have grow), and I stuck them in the ground over on the maple knoll, and all of them are still alive.  At some point I will have to move them elsewhere, but right now I am just enjoying the little miracle.

Along with the plants I snagged at the MG plant swap this week, I picked up a bag of bulbs of resurrection lilies, a.k.a. naked ladies, the amaryllis relatives that put out leaves in the spring and then pink flowers on naked stalks in the fall.  The accompanying instructions said (and I'm sure this is right) that they should be planted in the fall.  I thought about this, and about the times I've tried to store bulbs over the humid summer to find them mushy or sprouting, and decided to experiment.  Half of them went in the ground today, and the others went in a paper bag that I will try to keep somewhere fairly dry.  Let's see what happens.

Positive thinking helps me not wallow in the wheelbarrowfuls of weeds I still have to pull and all the other stuff that will die if I don't get to it.  Oh, the looming disaster.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Diet of Worms

Oh dear, have not made an update in weeks.  I wish I could say I'd spent all the time planting things outside, but due to illness and otherwise busyness I am way behind.  I hope to at least post some pictures and summaries soon.

But for the moment, back to the worms.  This is the sign I put on the bin when we started (the Diet of Worms tag is my son's irresistible addition). It was probably a useless gesture, since no one feeds them but me, and clearly...

...I can't follow my own directions.  I believe those are squash seedlings.  Oops.

Also, I keep neglecting to fill the bin with shredded newspaper to keep the upper parts dry, and as before the more rebellious worms seem to be living in the foodless penthouse (though since they are excreting there, I assume they eat sometime).  And a few had fallen or climbed down the holes into the lower bin (most drowned).

Per directions at Red Worm Composting, I am going to try freezing some food scraps so that, thawed, they will provide softer and more easily digested food for the worms.  It is really easy to feed them too much, but even if I keep the offerings down to a minimum some of it sits there uneaten until it molds.  They do not appreciate crunch in their diet.

I may drill some holes in the top to improve air circulation, too.  So, improvements still to be made, but nevertheless I think most of the worms are working away down below - at least when I poke around I see them moving, and the bedding level keeps going down.